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Gene’s Daily Scriptural Postings.

Reflective Bible Study.

The Disciples’ Doubt: Mark 16:9-14

Listen to this episode and/or subscribe on in Mark – Episode 49: In the first part of the extended conclusion to Mark’s gospel, discover a big theme present in several of the summaries of Jesus appearing to people following His resurrection, and how this theme is relevant for our lives today. Read the transcript: As we come to the end of Mark’s gospel, we will spend this episode, and the next one looking at the longer conclusion of Mark’s gospel. As I shared in our last episode, many people a lot smarter than me have significant doubts to Mark writing this conclusion. This is primarily because a different style of writing is used in this conclusion, the way this conclusion summarizes what happened using different theological content than the rest of Mark’s gospel, and because several significant early manuscripts do not include this ending. The footnotes in my New American Standard Bible conclude that “Mark’s gospel probably ends at chapter 16, verse 8, or the original ending has been lost”. I had debated leaving this ending out of our podcasts, but decided against it because while there is debate over whether Mark included this conclusion in his original gospel, nothing included in it is contrary to Christianity or Christian belief. Also, I decided to include it because leaving off at the end of our last episode’s passage seems to leave Mark unfinished. With that said, let’s read the first portion of Mark’s extended conclusion and discover what we can learn from this event. Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 16, and we will read it from the New American Standard Bible. Starting in verse 9, the author of this conclusion tells us: 9 Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and reported to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it. 12 After that, He appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking along on their way to the country. 13 They went away and reported it to the others, but they did not believe them either. 14 Afterward He appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen. Let’s stop reading here and save the rest for our next episode. In these few verses, it is interesting that Mark does not include any “new” information. All three encounters included in this portion of the conclusion are found in other gospels. The first encounter Mark’s conclusion described was Jesus speaking to Mary first. This is interesting because only John’s gospel includes this detail. While Mark and John could include the same thing while Matthew and Luke focus on different details, it would be very abnormal since Mark shares the most content with Matthew and Luke while John is left with many unique details and many unique events. Following describing that Jesus spoke with Mary first, this conclusion shifts focus and summarizes that Jesus then appeared to two disciples as they were walking to the country. This event is found in detail in Luke’s gospel, and while we don’t know which two disciples these were, they were traveling to the town of Emmaus. Thirdly, this conclusion describes Jesus appearing to the eleven disciples. Since Judas Iscariot had committed suicide and the disciples had not replaced his position yet, this referenced meeting would have included Thomas. John’s gospel describes two appearances with the first appearance missing Thomas, while the second appearance Thomas is present for. When reading the first part of this conclusion, I can understand why some scholars have doubts about what is included here. The big thing I notice is that unlike the rest of Mark’s gospel, which includes details, this conclusion seems to prompt us to read other gospels to discover the details of what happened. One theory about Mark’s gospel is that it was written first, and if this was the case, it logically wouldn’t gloss over events that should have details included. Every other event in Mark’s gospel is either included in detail or not included. Mark doesn’t summarize without giving details. However, there is a big theme that we can discover in this first half of Mark’s extended conclusion, and this theme is worth paying attention to. In each of the sections, we see a theme repeating. After Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, she reports this to the disciples. Verse 11 describes the disciples’ response: “When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they refused to believe it.” Next, Jesus appeared to two unnamed disciples traveling to the country. Verse 13 describes the rest of the disciples’ response: “They went away and reported it to the others, but they did not believe them either.” Verse 14 then includes Jesus appearing to the group of eleven as they were together and we see the following challenge, “He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen.” In this first section of Mark’s extended conclusion, the big theme that we can see is the difficulty these disciples had believing that Jesus actually rose from the dead. While other gospel writers, Matthew specifically, describe the religious leaders believing but bribing the soldiers to lie about what happened, the people who should have been the ones who believed the most were the disciples, who Jesus repeatedly told He would be killed and then resurrected. This first section of Mark’s conclusion also suggests that the disciples had a difficult time accepting that Jesus would appear to people outside of their close circle before He appeared to them as a group. While this is what happened, I can understand the difficulty they faced with this reality. If Jesus had returned to life, the first logical place for Him to appear would be to His group of followers. However, I wonder if the disciples doubted because they realized they had failed Jesus several nights earlier. When the mob came to arrest Jesus, they all scattered and fled. I wonder if doubts were in their minds that said Jesus had given up on them because they had abandoned Jesus. But these doubts are lies from Satan. While we fail God more frequently than many of us would want to admit, God does not give up on us. One big failure on the part of these disciples is that they were hiding away, having locked themselves in a secret room. The first followers to see Jesus were the ones who were outside of that room. I have a suspicion that Jesus had really wanted to get the disciples to come to the tomb early on the morning of His resurrection, and to witness what the guards experienced. However, instead of scattering like the guards did, the disciples would be present for one of the greatest events in history, and they would get to see Jesus resurrected and death defeated. Instead, like we all seem to default to, the disciples doubted other people because they did not see or experience what happened first hand. We all can fall into this trap, but this trap is a lie from Satan. Jesus did step out of the grave victorious, and this means that Satan’s lies against God have been shown to be false. Jesus loved us so much that He willingly faced some of the worst torture sinful humanity has come up with in order to show us how much God loves us. Jesus was willing to face the cross for you. Instead of doubting God’s love and Jesus’ gift, let’s place our faith, hope, trust, and belief in Jesus that His sacrifice is enough to cover our sins and give us salvation! As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with: As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first in your life and choose to accept Him rather than doubt. When people share what Jesus has done for them, accept and celebrate their stories. Look forward with them to the day Jesus returns to take us home to be with Him forever. Also, be sure to continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each and every day. Through prayer and study, we can open our hearts to God and we can learn to trust Him as we learn just how much He loves us. While skeptics like to point to challenging events in the Bible, God has revealed Himself to us through the Bible and the biggest theme we can find in the Bible is God’s love for us and His desire to redeem us from sin! And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or doubt where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him! Listen to this episode and/or subscribe on this article on the web on it's official page: The Disciples’ Doubt: Mark 16:9-14

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